Infertility affects approximately 10% of the population in Ireland. Since infertility strikes people from all socioeconomic levels and cuts across all racial, ethnic, and religious lines, chances are great that a friend, relative, neighbour, or perhaps you yourself are attempting to cope with the medical and emotional aspects of infertility. Christmas can be one of the most difficult times of the year for those experiencing infertility while it can be one of the most magical for those already parenting.
Through the eyes of a child
Christmas is centred around children, and oh how so many of us in our adult years yearn to experience Christmas once again ‘through the eyes of a child’, even just for a day. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends scrambling to steal little ones away from their parents for a short while in the hope of catching a glimpse of the wide eyed stare of the innocent child, mesmerised by the magic and wonderment of what Christmas can offer. But what if that yearning went far beyond a few stolen moments with an excited child, to the desperate desire to have a child of your own, with the realisation in most cases of infertility that this will not be as straight forward as you once may have thought it would be.
Grief and loss
Infertility is a major life crisis. Grief will inevitably be a part of your infertility journey and there is no avoiding grief. During the Christmas period feelings of grief and loss may be magnified for those experiencing infertility. We are encouraged by the media to believe that at Christmas time we should be filled with only feelings of love and hope while making new memories to cherish for years to come. This can add extra stress to an already anxious and overwhelmed person going through infertility. Speaking with a counsellor or psychotherapist may help in you coming to terms with where you are on your infertility journey by providing a safe space where you can speak about your pain.
Coping is about having a sense that you can manage some parts of how you are feeling in almost all situations. It’s not about controlling the situation or others. You may be aware that certain situations will be tough for you and by preparing somewhat for these situations, you can help yourself to deal more effectively with possible feelings of upset and anger.
Many couples experiencing infertility can feel isolated during family-centred celebrations. While it is not healthy to avoid everyone and everything during the Christmas period, it can be healthy to avoid certain situations and places that you know will make you feel worse.
While many couples chose to share their infertility journey with a close circle of family and friends and possibly mental health professionals, there are couples who for different reasons decide to be on this journey by themselves. For couples who chose the latter, it is especially important to stay as connected and tuned-in as possible to each other. Sharing feelings, worries and concerns can help to alleviate feelings of hopelessness, isolation, and insecurity that one or both of you may be experiencing. Heading out for a walk together should either of you begin to feel overwhelmed during Christmas gatherings or events can be an opportunity to support and check in with each other in private.
Many of us eat and drink too much at Christmas time and don’t get enough sleep. It’s important to take care of yourself physically as well as emotionally to cope with the stress of infertility. Emotional reserves can be depleted during treatment so its especially important to take good care of your physical health at this time.
Allow yourself to participate in your life as it is right now and not put it ‘on hold’ during the Christmas period. This may help you to build up some reserves for your ongoing journey through infertility.
About the author
Georgia Cashman qualified as a counsellor in 2012 and works in a humanistic and integrative way. Georgia’s aim is to offer her clients a space where they can talk and be heard, in a safe, secure and confidential setting, to explore any issue causing them difficulty in their lives. Georgia’s intention in working together with individuals to establish new ways of coping with life’s challenges, is that it will help to alleviate feelings of fear, sadness, hopelessness or anger so that the person may regain a sense of enjoyment, control and forward momentum in their lives.